Uttarakhand has two parts, each with its own culture and language.
Here are nine of the most notable cities.
- Dehradun — the capital, called the "Oxford of India" for its boarding schools
- Almora — a hill station
- Haridwar — a holy city on the Ganges and one of the sites of Kumbh Mela, the world's largest festival
- Mukteshwar — a small town made famous by Jim Corbett who penned the novel "The Man Eaters of Kumaon"
- Mussoorie — famous hill station near Dehradun known for its scenic beauty and panoramic views
- Nainital — picturesque hill station in the Himalayan foothills known for its 150+ year old schools
- Pithoragarh — a city in Uttarakhand that is close to the borders with China (Tibet) and Nepal
- Rishikesh — the yoga capital of the world
- Auli — ski resort
- Badrinath — temple of Vishnu
- Chakrata — picturesque, less frequented hill station
- Corbett National Park — oldest national park of India
- Dunagiri — nature retreat where serenity, eternity and divinity come together
- Gangotri — source of the holy Ganges river
- Kedarnath — temple of Shiva
- Valley of Flowers National Park — is famous for its outstanding natural beauty, endangered animals and endemic alpine flowers
- Yamunotri — source of the Yamuna River
Uttarakhand, which is in the Himalayan region, is one of the most picturesque states in the country and has tourist destinations that range from hill stations to popular towns to pilgrim destinations.
The local languages are Kumaoni and Garhwali, but everyone also speaks Hindi. English is not so common, but well-understood and spoken in some parts.
There are many ways to enter Uttarakhand. If you are interested in seeing the Garhwal region you can enter through either Haridwar or Kotdwar. Haridwar is the more popular entrance. For both options there are regular bus and train services available from New Delhi.
As public transit is not very extensive in the state, you might consider hiring a car and possibly a driver.
Nainital, Mussoorie and Ranikhet though it's better to treat these slightly overcrowded, touristy 'hill stations' as base camps to explore lots of other hidden jewels further afield in Uttarakhand. In Garhwal, Pauri and Gwaldam there are very peaceful & scenic places. In the Kumaon region, if you are near Almora and want to stay in a secluded area, try Peora or Mukteshwar. Dunagiri in Almora district is a stunningly beautiful area off the beaten track. But do remember in Uttarakhand the journey itself is destination.
- Badrinath Temple - This beautiful temple is located near to Alaknanda River, at an altitude of 3133 meters above from the sea level. This temple is dedicated to the Lord Vishnu.
- Bhowali - Bhowali is situated at a distance of 11kms, from Nainital, at an altitude of 1706 mts, from the level of sea. This place provides a panoramic view of the nature. This place if famous for its panoramic view as well as hill fruit mart, which was established in 1912.
- Dehradun - Dehradun is the capital city of Uttarakhand. This is one of the oldest cities of India, located in the Himalayas. This city is also termed as the “Oxford of India”, as it is best known educational centres of India.
- Dunagiri - Very few places are left on our planet where we can enjoy nature experiences in such pristine, tranquil and calm environment amidst ancient forests. A spot of stunning natural splendor, being one with nature is easy to do at Dunagiri Nature Retreat. Its greatness lies not merely in its fascinating history and captivating beauty, it is rather the serene and spiritual atmosphere of this place that strikes the mind and brings peace to the soul. Known by various names such as Drongiri, Dronagiri and Doonagiri - a visit to Dunagiri is a holiday like no other; it is a journey into the innermost recesses of the soul, a re-discovery of the essence of being.
- Rajaji National Park - Rajaji National park always attracts to wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers. This place is located around 208km from Delhi and around 9 km from Haridwar. This park remains open from November to June for the tourists.
Uttarakhand is a great place for trekking. At the lower levels, there are forests and wildlife. At the upper reaches, you go past the tree line to snow clad mountains. There are many trip designs which can be conceived of, but there are perhaps around 20 trips which are the most popular. See also: Leave-no-trace camping and Wilderness backpacking
- Chandrashila Trek, Chopta - Chandrashila commands the most beautiful view of the Himalayas in the whole region, especially Chaukhamba & Nanda Devi. There's one of the Panch Kedars - Tungnath's temple - the highest temple of Shiva.
- Deoriatal Trek - Deoriatal Trek is one of the famous trekking destinations in Uttarakhand. One can drive up to the Sari village near Ukhimath, from where it is a short 4 kms walk to the lake. Trekking can be done for entire year in Deoriatal.
- Gangotri Glacier Trek - Tapovan (meditation ground of Gods), Gaumukh (source of Ganga) & Shivling Mountain.
- Har ki doon - very scenic trek, near to Swargrohini peak, from where Pandavas went to the heaven.
- Kafni glacier trek
- Kalindni Pass Trek - Gangotri to Badrinath - a lifetime dream for many an adventurer.
- Khatling Glacier - near Gangotri.
- Kuari Pass Trek - near Auli, quite popular with foreign tourists
- Madmaheshwar Trek - near Ukhimath, Rudraprayag - one of the most beautiful treks leading to a Panch Kedar, it's at the base of Chaukhamba Peak (7300 m/23,950 ft).
- Milam glacier trek
- Panwali Bugyal Trek, Tehri District - it leads to Triguninarayan, a place where the eternal flame of Shiva & Sati's (Parvati's previous incarnation) marriage is still kindling.
- Pindari glacier trip
- Roopkund Trek (Bedni Bugyal, Chamoli District) - one of the most popular treks. Roop kund also known as Mystery Lake is a clear water Himalayan lake. Roopkund starts from Debal. This beautiful lake is surrounded by majestic Himalayan peaks covered with snow and glaciers.
- Satopanth Swargarohini Trek - near Badrinath, one of the most pristine treks. Satopanth tal is a lake at an altitude of 4600m.
- Sunder dhunga trek
- Thailisan - Binsar Trek in Pauri, an uplifting trek, providing panoramic view of Himalayas.
- Trekking inside Nanda Devi Sanctuary
- Valley of Flowers Trek - near Badrinath - the most beautiful valley.
Kumaoni food is very simple but very nutritious and completely suits the hard environment of the Himalayas. Pulses like gehet are fashioned into different preparations like ras-bhaat, chains, faanda and thatwaani – all are unique preparations from the same pulse. Jholi or curry seasoned with curd. Chudkan
- Aaloo gutuk and Pinalu Gutuk are fried potatoes or pinalu, seasoned with spices.
- Bal Mithai is a brown chocolate-like fudge, made with roasted khoya, coated with white sugar balls.
- Bhatt ki Churkani is a soup like preparation of bhatt pulses eaten with rice.
- Chains is a preparation of whole urad which are first roasted then ground and then seasoned into a soup.
- Dubka is a simple dish made from various lentils, which are ground and made into a curry-like dish with a few local spices available in the Kumaon hills like jamboo and jakhiya. It's usually made in an iron wok and eaten with rice.
- Jholi is a curry seasoned with curd and curry leaves.
- Kaapa is a dish prepared with spinach leaves crushed into a paste and cooked with other condiments.
- Saag is a fried dish of green vegetables. Can be made from any of the various green vegetables like palak (spinach), lai, methi (fenugreek leaves) and so on.
The types of food here include Garhwali, Indian, Chinese and Tibetan. In the tourists centers such as Badrinath, Gujarati, and Marwari, other regional cuisines are available for the hordes of pilgrims that descend on the holy sites every summer.
Uttarakhand has high excise taxes on beer and alcohol: a bottle of beer can cost ₹80-₹90, nearly double the price of some other states in India. Quite a few holy towns including Haridwar and Rishikesh are officially dry. Cannabis is illegal, but widely used anyway.
The roads are a bit tricky, and taxi rides in the hills may appear dangerous, but otherwise Uttarakhand is a pretty safe place for tourists. However, tourists are known to encounter problems in the urban centers and the plains districts such as Haridwar.
One may take up one of the trekking tours to have a walk in Chopta, Tungnath, Deoria Taal and Chandrasheela. Or, simply dive into the natural garden of Buransh - a destination considered to be the Switzerland of India.